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Steve English

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“When the music stops you need to grab a seat,” is a kids game, but in the grown-up business of the paddock, it is still just as relevant as if you were at a birthday party.

Unfortunately for Eugene Laverty, he’s been left as one of the last riders chasing a seat for 2019, and with Marco Melandri, Loris Baz, Jordi Torres, and Xavi Fores all also running in circles, the clock is ticking until the music stops for good.

Having thought that he’d be sticking with Shaun Muir Racing for next year, as the team switches to BMW machinery, the Irishman now finds himself on the outside looking in. From feeling secure that he would have a good ride for 2019, he suddenly finds himself staring at limited opportunities.

Over the course of 228 races, Tom Sykes made himself into a Kawasaki legend. It's easy to look at the last four years and to only see the success that Jonathan Rea has achieved on the green machine, but before 2010 the Japanese firm was struggling. Chris Walker's win in the wet at Assen was a bright spot that punctuated ten years of failure.

From the turn of the millennium, until Sykes joined, the team had three wins, a home double at Sugo in 2010 by wildcard rider Hitoyasu Izutsu and Walker's famous result. These weren't lean times for Kawasaki - this was a famine. With only 19 podiums in the ten years prior to his arrival, it's remarkable what the Englishman has achieved with the team.

“It’s the end of a great era,” reflected Sykes. “It’s been a great time, and I feel that we’ve done a great job together. We've all grown up a lot together. We had the chance to be three-times world champions and I’m very, very fortunate to be able to say that I’m a world champion.”

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WorldSBK’s South American adventure saw the history books once again rewritten by Jonathan Rea with the Northern Irishman claiming a tenth consecutive victory.

The world champion claimed a comfortable win on Saturday, the series first ever race in Argentina, but after weekend of cleaning a dirty and dusty track it was the temperature that caused problems on Sunday.

With over 110F temperatures on the asphalt, it was as slick a surface as many riders could remember with overnight rain also washing away any rubber that had been put down on the surface. It was easy to make a mistake, and coming from the third row of the grid, Rea certainly made his fair share in the early laps.

Once on clear track however, he was imperious, and comfortably the fastest man on track. He used this advantage to charge down Xavi Fores, and claim a historic double that broke the long-standing record of Colin Edwards (2002) and Neil Hodgson (2003) for most consecutive victories in WorldSBK.

The Circuit San Juan Villicum surprised everyone in the WorldSBK paddock this past weekend. With the Andes Mountain range offering one of the most picturesque backgrounds in all of racing, this brand new facility has instantly offered a unique circuit to the championship.

The 2.6-mile circuit has received positive feedback from the riders and teams, and Milwaukee Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty offered us his perspective of the track.

“Who's the greatest” has been a question asked in every sport over the years. Whether it's Muhammad Ali self proclaiming himself, or Tiger Woods being anointed by the masses, a general consensus quickly forms about a pecking order.

In football, it quickly comes down to Pele or Maradonna, Ronaldo or Messi, or another combination from a certain era. In tennis it comes down to dominance over a sustained period, with one era blending into the next of Rod Laver to Bjorn Borg to Pete Sampras to Roger Federer.

Motorcycle racing is similar in a lot of ways with riders typically earning their titles in spurts of sustained excellence.

Superbike racing is however a curious subset. With domestic series feeding into World championships, and some of the brightest WorldSBK stars being offered MotoGP seats after only a couple of years, at the same as riders step across to Superbike racing from Grand Prix for only a handful of seasons at the end of their careers, it's a strange combination of fluidity and constant change.

When you ask a Superbike fan who the greatest is you certainly get more than your fair share of choice.

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Portimão is one of the most exciting laps of the year for a WorldSBK rider. The Portuguese circuit is used extensively for winter testing, and last month’s official test also offered the majority of the field a chance to fine tune their settings for their return to action.

The circuit, nestled in the hills of the Algarve, is challenging for riders. There’s a bit of everything here, and getting your eye in and getting the most from the circuit takes time.

“Portimao is my favourite track in the world,” said an enthusiastic Eugene Laverty. “It’s something unique! I’ve done so many laps around this place over the years that I know this place like the back of my hand. At some tracks, you need the bike to work in a certain way to be fast because the rider is limited in what they can do – this place is the opposite!”

The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours is in the books, and it was one to remember. In a lot of ways, this was Suzuka back in its heyday. Factory bikes, world-class riders, and a flat-out sprint race between the best of the best.

It was a shame that the weather interrupted what had looked set to be a classic 8-Hours. With Jonathan Rea hitting the deck in the treacherous conditions, it took a potential race-winner out of contention, and ended three and a half hours of toe-to-toe, bar-to-bar between Kawasaki and Yamaha.

For the first time since 2015, Yamaha was challenged, but Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark weren't rattled.

Prior to the race Van der Mark joked that “I don't get scared on a bike, I scare the others!” and on Sunday the two-time WorldSBK race-winner certainly wasn't scared of the reputation that Rea brings as a three-time world champion.

The Dutchman's opening stint was superb, and his fight with Rea was something unlike any seen we have at the 8-Hours in recent years. When they pitted, it was up to Lowes and Leon Haslam to continue the fight and that's exactly what happened.

Over the course of those opening hours, we were treated to the full spectacle of motorcycle racing, and it was everything it should be. With that in mind, here are some of the biggest talking points of the 2018 Suzuka 8 Hours.

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